Paper short abstract:
Germaine Tillion’s contributions to the field of anthropology have gone widely unnoticed. The paper will look into the reasons for Tillion's professional lapse into oblivion and show her relevance for current debates on Mediterranean culture and gender issues
Paper long abstract:
In May 2015, the remains of French anthropologist Germaine Tillion were transferred to the Pantheon. Though widely unknown outside of France, Tillion had become something of a national institution and moral instance in her home country. A student of Mauss, she spent almost six years of fieldwork in the Algerian Aurès before returning to France at the eve of World War II. Back in Paris, Tillion co-founded a cell of the resistance at the Musée de l'Homme. In 1943, she was arrested and deported to the women's concentration camp in Ravensbrück. Applying anthropological methods of observation and analyses, Tillion managed to create a professional distance to the degrading surroundings and to regain some form of agency. She survived the camp, and, as early as 1946, published the first of three ethnographies of the "'civilisation' concentrationnaire". In the 1960s, Tillion resumed her pre-war research in Algeria and developed a kinship based model of endogamous trans-Mediterranean culture and gender relations, seemingly opposing Lévi-Strauss' claims from The Elementary Structures of Kinship. However, French anthropology in the 60s, so it seems, was not ready for something so decidedly "un-structural". Tillion's ideas went widely unnoticed. The paper aims to counterbalance Lévi-Strauss' emphasis on structure with Tillion's empiricist approach and introduce an original and remarkable thinker who - undeservedly - has been ignored by the anthropological community for far too long.
Themes in the history of anthropology